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`Right-wing England' rebels over budgets

A grant-maintained school in Gloucestershire which is facing the loss of up to eight teachers may be forced to close next month.

Governors at Rednock school in Dursley have told the Education Secretary that they cannot set a budget that will ensure adequate health and safety standards and deliver the national curriculum. Rednock, like all Gloucestershire secondaries, faces a 5 per cent cut to its budget. Its problems are particularly acute as the 1970s' school with 18 temporary classrooms has high maintenance bills.

The 1,250-pupil school was praised by inspectors last term as giving " good value from money".

Although Gloucestershire comes under the Common Funding Formula (CFF) - the system being phased in for GM schools - spending on all secondary schools is still subject to Government limits.

County councillors have agreed a budget Pounds 4 million above their limit but will have to wait until April at the earliest for a decision from the Government.

Rednock governors meet on March 30 - one day before they have to agree a budget - to decide what action to take. It is unclear what would happen if they did not set a budget as the Funding Agency, which administers GM finances, would not get involved though the Education Secretary does have powers to remove governors.

John Pritchard, head of Rednock, said: "I will have to cease all payments from April 1 unless the governors or somebody else sets a budget for us and that can only mean closing the school."

The 5 per cent cut that the county's schools face comes on top of cuts of 11 per cent over the past four years.

Mike Redman, chair of Gloucestershire Secondary Heads Association, said: "This is not a militant county. It is Gatcombe Park, Prince Charles, Cheltenham. It is everything that is quintessentially right-wing England. If you have got this level of anger here, it shows just how bad things have become."

Essex, also covered by the CFF, put Pounds 1.3m into building grants for LEA schools to try to cushion them from the cuts. A spokesman estimated this would mean LEA secondaries were on average Pounds 20,000 worse off, compared to about Pounds 60,000 in county GM schools.

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